Keep the candle burning

Gasometer in Lloyds Road being demolished. 01/07/1981
Gasometer in Lloyds Road being demolished. 01/07/1981

The demolition of Corby steelworks marked the end of an era for a town built around the industry.

For many years, thousands of people had made a living in the sprawling plant which towered over homes built to house workers.

The works were spread over 680 acres – the largest complex of its kind in the whole of Europe.

In 1980 large parts of the steelworks closed, with about 10,000 people losing their jobs and an estimated 10,000 more losing jobs in trades that supported the works.

Because of the nature of the heavy industry and the processes involved, the demolition of the works took four years to complete.

The coke ovens, blast furnaces and chimneys were constructed to withstand incredibly high temperatures created by the steelmaking process and, as such, were tricky to demolish.

The Corby Candle was the most recognisable of all the buildings. It was a large chimney that burned off gases produced by the steelmaking process. It could be seen from many miles away.

It was often said that when the Corby Candle went out, the town would die.

The major demolition projects were completed by Thos W Ward, Braithwaite Excavations and other smaller companies by 1984, and the site cleared of all its large buildings was bought by Corby Council in 1985.

During the period of demolition, local people became used to the skyline around them changing regularly.

Jacqui Liquorish’s husband Des worked in the blast furnaces, and was employed by British Steel for 25 years. He was the youngest blast furnace worker aged 26.

Jacqui said: “It was a sad time when the demolition was taking place.

“It had become such a huge part of the landscape in Corby. You could see the Corby Candle burning from every direction.

“Now you can see the power station in its place – I call them the Corby two towers. When the demolition of the blast furnace happened neither me nor Des went because we were both working.

“Thankfully Des was lucky enough to get the last vacancy in Corby when the steelworks closed, working as a bin man.

“At the time we said it was a bit of a come down from being in such a skilled job but Stewart and Lloyds said they would make up the wages to whatever salary they were previously on as an incentive for people to get work, so it wasn’t too bad.

“He ended up staying as a bin man for 25 years, initially employed by the council and then by Kier when they took over.”

Now the site of the blast furnaces is an Asda supermarket, all that remains of the Corby Candle is a metal reproduction in Phoenix Parkway and a pub of the same name in the town centre.